ARGENTINA FROM A BRITISH POINT OF VIEW
NOTES ON ARGENTINE LIFE.
With Photographs and Diagrams.
EDITED BY CAMPBELL P. OGILVIE.
LONDON: WERTHEIMER, LEA & CO., CLIFTON HOUSE, WORSHIP STREET, E.C 1910.
PRINTED BY WERTHEIMER, LEA & CO., CLIFTON HOUSE, WORSHIP STREET, LONDON, E.C
DEDICATED To all THE SHAREHOLDERS OF THE SANTA FE LAND COMPANY, LIMITED, who take a real interest in the Company.
In May last I was asked to read, towards the end of the year, a paper on Argentina, before the Royal Society of Arts. The task of compiling that paper was one of absorbing interest to me; and though I fully realise how inadequately I have dealt with so interesting a subject, I venture to think that the facts and figures which the paper contains may be of interest to some, at any rate, of the Shareholders of the Santa Fe Land Company. It is upon this supposition that it is published.
Whilst I was obtaining the latest information for the paper (which was read before the Royal Society of Arts on November 30th, 1910), several members of the staff of the Santa Fe Land Company aided me by writing some useful and interesting notes on subjects connected with Argentina, and also giving various experiences which they had undergone whilst resident there. I am indebted to the writers for many hints on life in Argentina, and as I think that others will find the reading of the notes as engaging as I did, they are now reproduced just as I received them, and incorporated with my own paper in a book of which they form by no means the least interesting part.
The final portion of the book—Leaves from a journal entitled "The Tacuru"—is written in a lighter vein. It describes a trip through some of the Northern lands of the Santa Fe Land Company, and it is included because, although frankly humorous, it contains much really useful information and many capital illustrations, I should, however, mention that this journal was written by members of the expedition, and was originally intended solely for their own private edification and amusement; therefore all the happier phases of the trip are noted; but I can assure my English readers that the trip, well though it was planned, was not all luxury.
To the many who have helped me in this work I tender my most sincere thanks.
CAMPBELL P. OGILVIE.
LAWFORD PLACE, MANNINGTREE, ESSEX, December, 1910.
ARGENTINA FROM A BRITISH POINT OF VIEW 1
HISTORY OF THE SANTA FE LAND COMPANY, LIMITED 33
THE VALUE OF LAND IN ARGENTINA 45
REMARKS ON STORMS AND THE CLIMATE OF THE ARGENTINE 51
SOME EXPERIENCE OF WORKING ON ESTANCIAS 57
THE SOCIAL SIDE OF CAMP LIFE 69
CARNIVAL IN THE ARGENTINE 75
HORSE-RACING IN THE ARGENTINE 79
SUNDAYS IN CAMP 87
THE SERVANT PROBLEM IN ARGENTINA 91
POLICE OF A BYGONE DAY 97
A VISIT TO THE NORTHERN CHACO 107
WORK IN THE WOODS 119
CACHAPES, AND OTHER THINGS 125
MY FRIEND THE AXEMAN 131
DUST AND OTHER STORMS 141
CONSCRIPT LIFE IN THE ARGENTINE REPUBLIC 155
ACROSS THE BOLIVIAN ANDES IN 1901 161
PROGRESS OF THE PORT OF BUENOS AIRES 185
JUST MY LUCK! 193
"THE TACURU" 199
LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS.
CATTLE TRAIN ON CENTRAL ARGENTINE RAILWAY, BRINGING CATTLE TO BARRANCOSA 39
LOADING WHEAT AT ROSARIO FROM THE "BARRANCA" 40
SAN CRISTOBAL ESTANCIA HOUSE 41
WATERING-PLACE AT BARRANCOSA 42
WOOD ON THE COMPANY'S OWN LINE READY FOR LOADING 43
LOADING TIMBER AT WAYSIDE STATION 44
WHEAT READY FOR LOADING AT STATION ON CENTRAL ARGENTINE RAILWAY 48
THE MAKER OF LAND VALUES 50
TENNIS PARTY AT VERA 73
CARNIVAL AT VERA 77
"A DAY OF REAL ENJOYMENT" 90
SQUARE QUEBRACHO LOGS WORKED BY THE AXEMAN, SHOWING RESIN OOZING THEREFROM 134
LOADING WHEAT AT THE PORT OF BUENOS AIRES 187
HORSES AWAITING INSPECTION 209
STACKING ALFALFA 210
ALFALFA ELEVATOR AT WORK 211
THE GREEN FIELDS OF ALFALFA 212
HERD OF CATTLE 215
EXPANSE OF ALFALFA 221
DISC-PLOUGH AT WORK 222
ROADMAKER AND RAILROAD BUILDER 223
PLOUGHING VIRGIN CAMP 226
HART-PARR ENGINE, DRAWING ROADMAKER 228
CATTLE LEAVING DIP 233
CROSSING THE SALADO 240
THE EFFECT OF A LONG DROUGHT 241
REFINED CAMPS 242
"RICH BLACK ALLUVIAL SOIL" 251
WATER KNEE-DEEP 265
QUEBRACHO COLORADO TREE 266
SLEEPERS AWAITING TRANSPORT AT VERA 267
TANNIN EXTRACT FACTORY 268
SOME OF THE HORSES 271
"AWFUL FLOOD" 276
ON THE WAY TO OLMOS 277
LIST OF DIAGRAMS.
IMMIGRATION RETURNS 2
AGRICULTURAL EXPORTATION 14
CULTIVATED AREA IN HECTARES 15
VALUE IN L STERLING OF THE TOTAL EXPORTS OF ARGENTINA, 1900-09 22
ARGENTINA FROM A BRITISH POINT OF VIEW.
Argentina, which does not profess to be a manufacturing country, exported in 1909 material grown on her own lands to the value of L79,000,000, and imported goods to the extent of L60,000,000. This fact arrests our attention, and forces us to recognise that there is a trade balance of nearly 20 millions sterling in her favour, and to realise the saving power of the country.
It is not mere curiosity which prompts us to ask: "Are these L79,000,000 worth of exports of any value to us? Do we consume any of them? Do we manufacture any of them? And do we send any of this same stuff back again after it has been dealt with by our British artisans?" It would be difficult to follow definitely any one article, but upon broad lines the questions are simple and can be easily answered. Amongst the agricultural exports we find wheat, oats, maize, linseed, and flour. The value placed upon these in 1908 amounted to L48,000,000, and England pays for and consumes nearly 42 per cent. of these exports. Other goods, such as frozen beef, chilled beef, mutton, pork, wool, and articles which may be justly grouped as the results of the cattle and sheep industry, amounted to no less a figure than L23,000,000. All these exports represent foodstuffs or other necessities of life, and are consumed by those nations which do not produce enough from their own soil to keep their teeming populations. Another export which is worthy of particular mention comes from the forests, viz., quebracho, which, in the form of logs and extract, was exported in 1908 to the value of L1,200,000. The value of material of all sorts sent from England to Argentina in 1908 was L16,938,872 (this figure includes such things as manufactured woollen goods, leather goods, oils, and paints), therefore it is clear that we have, and must continue to take, a practical and financial interest in the welfare and prosperity of Argentina.
New countries cannot get on without men willing and ready to exploit Nature's gifts, and, naturally, we look to the immigration returns when considering Argentina's progress. To give each year's return for the last 50 years would be wearisome, but, taking the average figures for ten-year periods from 1860 to 1909, we have the following interesting table. (The figures represent the balance of those left in the country after allowing for emigration):—
Yearly Average. From 1860 to 1869 (inclusive) ... 15,044 " 1870 " 1879 " ... 29,462 " 1880 " 1889 " ... 84,586 " 1890 " 1899 " ... 43,618 " 1900 " 1909 " ... 100,998
Sixty-five per cent. of the immigrants are agricultural labourers, who soon find work in the country, and again add their quota to the increasing quantity and value of materials to be exported. Facing this page is a diagram of the Immigration Returns from 1857 to 1909.
Nature has been lavish in her gifts to Argentina, and man has taken great advantage of these gifts. My desire now is to show what has been done in the way of developing agriculture in this richly-endowed country during the last fifty years. One name which should never be forgotten in Argentina is that of William Wheelwright, whose entrance into active life in Buenos Aires was not particularly dignified; in 1826 he was shipwrecked at the mouth of the River Plate, and struggled on barefooted, hatless and starving to the small town of Quilmes.
Mr. Wheelwright was an earnest and far-seeing man, and his knowledge of railways in the United States helped him to realise their great possibilities in Argentina; but, strange to say, upon his return to his native land he could not impress any of those men who afterwards became such great "Railway Kings" in the U.S.A. Failing to obtain capital for Argentine railway development in his own country, Wheelwright came to England, and interested Thomas Brassey, whose name was then a household word amongst railway pioneers. These two men associated themselves with Messrs. Ogilvie & Wythes, forming themselves into the firm of Brassey, Ogilvie, Wythes & Wheelwright, whose first work was the building of a railway 17,480 kilometres long between Buenos Aires and Quilmes in 1863; afterwards they built the line from Rosario to Cordova, which is embodied to-day in the Central Argentine Railway. Other railways were projected, and this policy of progress and extension of the steel road still holds good in Argentina.
The year 1857 saw the first railway built, from Buenos Ayres to Flores, 5,879 kilometres long; in 1870 there were 457 miles of railroad; in 1880 the railways had increased their mileage to 1,572; in 1890 Argentina possessed 5,895 miles of railway, and in 1900 there were 10,352 miles.
The rapid increase in railway mileage during the last nine years is as follows:—
In 1901 there were 10,565 miles of railway. " 1902 " " 10,868 " " " " 1903 " " 11,500 " " " " 1904 " " 12,140 " " " " 1905 " " 12,370 " " " " 1906 " " 12,850 " " " " 1907 " " 13,829 " " " " 1908 " " 14,825 " " " " 1909 " " 15,937[A]" " "
12,000 of which are owned by English companies, representing a capital investment of L170,000,000.
In other words, for the last forty years Argentina has built railways at the rate of over a mile a day, and in 1907, 1908, and 1909 her average rate per day was nearly three miles. This means that owing to the extension of railways during this last year alone, over a million more acres of land could have been given up to the plough if suitable for the cultivation of corn.
When William Wheelwright first visited Argentina it was little more than an unknown land, whose inhabitants had no ambition, and no desire to acquire wealth—except at the expense of broken heads. There was a standard of wealth, but it lay in the number of cattle owned; land was of little value, save for feeding cattle, and therefore counted for naught, but cattle could be boiled down for tallow; bones and hides were also marketable commodities; the man, therefore, who possessed cattle possessed wealth.
The opening out of the country by railways soon changed the aspect of affairs. The man who possessed cattle was no longer considered the rich man; it was he who owned leagues of land upon which wheat could be grown who became the potentially rich man; he, by cutting up his land and renting it to the immigrants, who were beginning to flock in in an endless stream to the country, found that riches were being accumulated for him without much exertion on his part. He took a risk inasmuch as he received payment in kind only. Therefore, when the immigrants did well, so did he, and as many thousands of immigrants have become rich, it follows that the land proprietors have become immensely so. It was the railways which created this possibility, and endowed the country by rendering it practicable to grow corn where cattle only existed before, but many Argentines to-day forget what they owe to the railway pioneers; it is the railways, and the railways only, which render the splendid and yearly increasing exports possible.
In 1858 cattle formed 25 per cent. of the total wealth of Argentina, but in 1885 cattle only represented 18 per cent. of the total wealth, railways having made it possible during those thirty years to utilise lands for other purposes than cattle-feeding. Let it be clearly understood, the total value of cattle had not decreased; far from that, the cattle had increased in value during the above period to the extent of L48,000,000, and to-day cattle, sheep, horses, mules, pigs, goats and asses represent a value of nearly L130,000,000. The following table shows how great the improvement has been in Argentine animals:—
Per Head. Cattle in 1885 were valued at an average of $13[B] " 1908 " " " 32 Sheep in 1885 " " " 2 " 1908 " " " 4 Horses in 1885 " " " 11 1908 " " " 25
Notwithstanding these increased valuations per head, and the larger number of animals in the country, the value created by man's labour far outweighs the increased value of mere breeding animals.
Next to the railways the improvements in shipping have helped the development of Argentina; the shipping trade of Buenos Aires has increased at the rate of one million tons per annum for the past few years, and the entries into the port form an interesting and instructive table:
The following statement gives the total tonnage that passed through the port of Buenos Aires from 1880 to 1909, and will more clearly show the increase and advance made in the last thirty years. These figures include both steamers and sailing-vessels, and local as well as foreign trade:—
Tons. 1880 ... 644,750 1881 ... 827,072 1882 ... 995,597 1883 ... 1,207,321 1884 ... 1,782,382 1885 ... 2,200,779 1886 ... 2,408,323 1887 ... 3,369,057 1888 ... 3,396,212 1889 ... 3,804,037 1890 ... 4,507,096 1891 ... 4,546,729 1892 ... 5,475,942 1893 ... 6,177,818 1894 ... 6,686,123 1895 ... 6,894,834 1896 ... 6,115,547 1897 ... 7,365,547 1898 ... 8,051,045 1899 ... 8,741,934 1900 ... 8,047,010 1901 ... 8,661,300 1902 ... 8,902,605 1903 ... 10,269,298 1904 ... 10,424,615 1905 ... 11,467,954 1906 ... 12,448,219 1907 ... 13,335,733 1908 ... 15,465,417 1909 ... 16,993,973
In 1897, out of the total number of steamers that entered Buenos Aires, viz., 901, with a tonnage of 2,342,391; 519, with a tonnage of 1,327,571, were British. Taking the year 1909 we find that 2,008 steamers and 137 sailing-vessels entered the port of Buenos Aires from foreign shores with a tonnage of 5,193,542, and 1,978 steamers and 129 sailing-vessels left the port for foreign shores with a tonnage of 5,174,114; out of these, British boats lead with 2,242 steamers and 37 sailing-vessels, or say 53-1/2 per cent. of the total. Germany comes next with 456 steamers and 2 sailing-vessels, or say 10-3/4 per cent, of the total. Italy with 307 steamers and 67 sailing-vessels is next, and then France with 264 steamers. The total number of steamers that entered and left the port from local and foreign ports is 13,485, with a tonnage of 14,481,526, and 20,264 sailing-vessels with 2,512,447 tons, which make up the amount of 16,993,973 tons, as shown above.
In the year 1884 the experiment of freezing beef, killed in Buenos Aires, and shipping it to Europe was first tried. That was successful, but an immense improvement was made when the process of chilling became the common means by which meat could be exported. The frozen beef trade in Argentina has had a wonderful development; it commenced in 1884, and the export of chilled meat has progressed steadily at the rate of 25,000 beeves yearly, until, in 1908, it reached the enormous quantity of 573,946 beeves, or 180,000 tons. Frozen mutton has remained comparatively steady, and has only increased by 38,000 tons in twenty-two years, or from 2,000,000 sheep frozen in 1886 to 3,297,667 in 1908, whilst "jerked beef," which was mostly sent to Cuba and Brazil, has fallen from 50,000 tons per annum to 6,651 tons. The value of frozen and preserved meats exported in 1908 was L5,233,948.
The value of live-stock in Argentina in 1908 was made up as follows:—
Cattle ... ... ... L82,000,000 Sheep ... ... ... 25,000,000 Horses ... ... ... 18,000,000 Mules ... ... ... 2,000,000 Pigs ... ... ... 1,368,000 Goats and Asses ... 1,000,000
A few years ago it was common on an estancia feeding 50,000 or 60,000 cattle to find the household using canned Swiss milk. To-day 425,000 litres of milk are brought into the city of Buenos Aires each day for consumption, and no less than two tons of butter, one ton of cream, and three tons of cheese are used there daily. Argentina also exports butter. This trade has sprung up entirely within the last fourteen years, and in 1908 she exported 3,549 tons of butter, the value of which was L283,973.
Until 1876 Argentina imported wheat for home consumption; in that year, when for many years past agricultural labourers had been arriving at an average of 25,000 per annum, she began to export wheat with a modest shipment of 5,000 tons. Thirty years later the export had mounted up to 2,247,988 tons, and in 1908 the wheat exported amounted to 3,636,293 tons, and was valued at L25,768,520. Agricultural colonies had sprung up everywhere, and cattle became of second-rate importance; to-day the value of the exports of corn, which term includes wheat, barley, maize, oats, etc., is more than double that of cattle and cattle products. It is interesting to follow the evolution wrought by labour, intelligence, and capital in the prairie lands of Argentina. First, let us note the developments on those wonderful tracts of splendid prairie lands lying between the River Plate and the Andes: fifty years ago these lands were of little account, and only a few cattle were to be found roaming about them, but upon the advance of the railway they came under the plough, and, without much attention or care, produced wheat and maize. After a time improvements in the method of cultivation produced a better return, and to-day a great deal of attention is paid to the preparing of the land, and thought and care are given to the seed time, the growing, and the harvest. When it is found desirable to rest the land after crops of wheat and maize, etc., alfalfa is grown thereon. Alfalfa is one of the clover tribe, and has the peculiar property of attaching to itself those micro-organisms which are able to fix the nitrogen in the air and render it available for plant food. Every colonist knows the value of alfalfa for feeding his animals, but it is not every colonist who knows why this plant occupies such a high place amongst feeding stuffs. Alfalfa is easily grown, very strong when established, and, provided its roots can get to water, will go on growing for years. The raison d'etre for growing alfalfa is for the feeding of cattle and preparing them for market, and for this purpose a league of alfalfa (6,177 acres metric measurement) will carry on an average 3,500 head. When grown for dry fodder it produces three or four crops per annum and a fair yield is from 6 to 8 tons per acre of dry alfalfa for each year. A ton of such hay is worth about $20 to $30, and after deducting expenses there is a clear return of about $14 per acre.
The figures supplied by one large company are interesting; they show that, on an average, cattle, when placed upon alfalfa lands, improve in value at the rate of $2.00 per head per month, so it is easy to place a value on its feeding properties. Thus, we will take a camp under alfalfa capable of carrying 10,000 head of cattle all the year round, where as the fattened animals are sold off an equal number is bought to replace them. Such a camp would bring in a clear profit of $200,000 per annum, and the property should be worth L175,000 sterling. An animal that has been kept all its life on rough camp, and, when too old for breeding, is placed for the first time on alfalfa lands, fattens extremely quickly, and the meat is tender and in quality compares favourably with any other beef. No business in Argentina of the same importance has shown such good returns as cattle breeding, and these results have been chiefly brought about by the introduction of alfalfa, and a knowledge of the life history of alfalfa is of the greatest importance to the cattle farmer. All cereal crops take from the soil mineral matter and nitrogen. Therefore, after continuous cropping the land becomes exhausted and generally poorer; experience has taught us that rotation of crops is a necessity to alleviate the strain on the soil, and such an axiom has this become that in many cases English landlords insist that their leases shall contain a clause binding the tenants to grow certain stated crops in rotation.
This system is known in England as the four-course shift. Knowledge gained by successive generations of observant farmers has given us the key to what Nature had hitherto kept to herself, and to-day we know why the plan adopted by our forefathers was right, and why the rotation of crops was, and is, a necessity. Men of science are devoting their lives to the systematic study of Nature's hidden secrets, and by means of Agricultural Colleges, as well as private individual research, these discoveries are being given to mankind, and long before the soils of Argentina show any serious loss of nitrogen from continuous cropping, science will probably have established means of applying in a practical manner those methods already known of propagating the nitrogen-collecting bacteria which thrive on alfalfa, clover, peas, soya beans, and other leguminous plants. Almost every country is now devoting time, money, and energy to agricultural research work. In 1908 the Agricultural College at Ontario prepared no less than 474 packages of Legume Bacteria, and in 309 cases beneficial results followed from the application thereof to the soil; in 165 cases no improvements in the crops were noticed, this may, however, have been due to the want of knowledge of how to manipulate the bacteria, or to lack of experience in noting effects scientifically, but in any case the experiment must be considered successful when the results obtained were satisfactory in no less than 65 per cent. of the trials. No greater factor exists than the microscope in opening up and hunting out the secrets concealed in the very soil we are standing on.
If soils were composed of nothing but pure silica sand, nothing would ever grow; but in Nature we find that soils contain all sorts of mineral matter, and chief amongst these is lime.
Alfalfa thrives on land which contains lime, and gives but poor results where this ingredient is deficient. The explanation is simple. There is a community of interest between the very low microscopic animal life, known as bacteria, and plant life generally. In every ounce of soil there are millions of these living germs which have their allotted work to do, and they thrive best in soils containing lime.
If one digs up with great care a root of alfalfa (it need not be an old plant, the youngest plant will show the same peculiarity), and care is taken in exposing the root (perhaps the best method is the washing away of the surrounding earth by water), some small nodules attached to the fine, hair-like roots are easily distinguished by the naked eye, and these nodules are the home of a teeming, microscopical, industrious population, who perform their allotted work with the silent, persistent energy so often displayed in Nature. Men of science have been able to identify at least three classes of these bacteria, and to ascertain the work accomplished by each. The reason for their existence would seem to be that one class is able to convert the nitrogen in the air into ammonia, whilst others work it into nitrite, and the third class so manipulate it as to form a nitrate which is capable of being used for plant food.
Now, although one ton of alfalfa removes from the soil 50 lb. of nitrogen, yet that crop leaves the soil richer in nitrogen, because the alfalfa has encouraged the multiplication of those factories which convert some of the thousands of tons of nitrogen floating above the earth into substance suitable for food for plant life. As a dry fodder for cattle three tons of alfalfa contains as much nutrition as two tons of wheat.
The cost of growing alfalfa greatly depends upon the situation of the land to be dealt with; also upon whether labour is plentiful or not; but, in order to give some idea of the advantage of growing this cattle food, we will imagine the intrinsic value of the undeveloped land to be L4,000, upon which, under existing conditions, it would be possible to keep 1,000 head of animals, whereas if this same land were under alfalfa 3,000 to 3,500 animals would be fattened thereon, and the land would have increased in value to L20,000 or L30,000.
Now, if the undeveloped land is to be improved, it becomes necessary either to work it yourself, with your own men, in which case you must provide ploughs, horses, bullocks, etc., or to carry out the plan usually adopted, that of letting the land to colonists who have had some experience in this class of work. Usually a colonist will undertake to cultivate from 500 to 600 acres, and agrees to pay to the landowner anything from 10 per cent. to 30 per cent. of his crops according to the distance of the land from the railway. The colonist brings his agricultural tackle along with him, and establishes his house (usually a most primitive affair), digs his well, and then proceeds to plough. In this work the whole family joins; the father leads the way, followed by the eldest child, and all the others in rotation, with the wife bringing up the rear; she keeps a maternal eye upon the little mite, who with great gusto and terrific yells manages somehow to cling to the plough and to do his or her share with the rest. Is it to be wondered at that work progresses fast under these conditions? There is but one idea prevalent in the family, namely, that time and opportunity are with them.
The first crop grown on newly-broken ground is usually maize; the second year's crop is linseed, and perhaps a third year's crop—probably wheat—is grown by the colonist before the land is handed back to the owner ready to be put down in alfalfa. The colonist's cultivation of the land will have effectually killed off the natural rough grasses which would otherwise grow up and choke the alfalfa. Sometimes the alfalfa is sown with the colonist's last crop, and in such cases the landowner finds the alfalfa seed, and during the sowing of this crop it is very advisable that either he or his agent should be in constant attendance, because the after results greatly depend upon the care with which the seeding has been done. When the colonist's contract is completed he moves on to another part, and the owner, who has year by year received a percentage of the crops, takes back his land. Considerable outlay has now to be made in fences, wells, and buildings; the more there are of these the better, the land will carry a larger head of cattle and the control of them is easy when the camp has been properly divided.
The colonists are generally Italians. They are an industrious and kindly people, hardy and quiet, well content with their surroundings, careful and frugal in their living, and many thousands could go back to their own country with wealth which has been acquired by constant and assiduous attention to the economies of life.
It has often been said that an Englishman will starve where an Italian will thrive, and in some respects this is true; but it would be better expressed if it were stated that an Italian can adapt himself to circumstances better than an Englishman. At the same time, I doubt if an Italian would come off best were the two placed on a desert island where instantaneous action, grit, and endurance were called for.
Many things are said of an Englishman, and none fits his character better than that which gives him the privilege of "grumbling," and this characteristic becomes more marked when he is able to grumble with one of his own kith and kin. I have heard Argentines praise Englishmen, who, they say, manage their estancias far and away beyond all others, but at the same time they have told me that they would never allow two Englishmen on their place at once.
It has been said that many of the immigrants do not intend to settle in the country. Probably this idea has gained ground on account of the large numbers of the labouring population, who are attracted to Argentina by the high wages ruling during the harvest time, and then find it pays them to go home and secure the European harvest, but generally these men come out again to stay. They have acquired a knowledge of the country, and often enough have also acquired an interest in some land, and they return, bringing their families, to adopt Argentina as their home—for a period at least.
A glance at the statistics prepared by the authorities in Buenos Aires shows that during the last fifty-two years 4,250,980 persons entered as immigrants, and out of this number only 1,690,783 returned, leaving in the country 2,560,197 individuals, or an average of 50,000 workers per annum. These figures have become even more marked of recent years. Taking the last five years, the country has received on an average 249,000 immigrants per annum; of these, 103,000 went back. In other words, 727,670 have made their homes within the borders of Argentina during the past five years, and of these at least 500,000 were agriculturists.
It is not to be wondered at, then, that the exports, chiefly made up of agricultural produce, have shown extraordinary progress. Facing this page is a diagram showing the agricultural exportation from 1900 to 1908.
Nothing can be more eloquent than the figures shown in this diagram. This remarkable progress, almost steady in its upward march, is not in one direction only. Argentina is an ideal country for agriculturists, and in every branch of that industry progress has been made. Greater care is being taken to-day in working up the by-products of the cattle business. More varied crops are being grown, and vegetable by-products are being economically looked after. The forests of Argentina are also being worked for the benefit of mankind. The Quebracho Colorado tree forms a very important item of export. It is sent out of the country either in the form of logs, of which no less than 254,571 tons were exported in 1908, or in the form of an extract for tanning purposes; 48,162 tons of this extract were made and exported in 1908, and a small quantity of the wood was exported in the shape of sawdust. The total value of Quebracho Colorado exported in various forms in that year was, as already stated, L1,200,000. This means that the Quebracho forests are being depleted at the rate of half a million tons per annum for export purposes alone, in addition to the enormous quantities used for sleepers, etc., in the country.
The area in acres under cultivation for the year 1908 was 46,174,250, an increase of 265 per cent, on the land under cultivation in the year 1895.
The diagram facing this page shows the area in hectares cultivated from 1897 to 1908:—
WHEAT—The area under cultivation for wheat shows an increase of 89 per cent, in ten years from—
8,000,000 acres in cultivation in 1898, to 15,157,750 " " " " 1908
LINSEED—shows an increase of 361 per cent, from—
831,972 acres in cultivation in 1898, to 3,835,750 " " " " 1908
MAIZE—increased by 250 per cent., and other crops, including Oats, 300 per cent. in the same period.
The United Kingdom purchased from Argentina and retained for its own use (in round figures) during the year 1908—
WHEAT to the value of L13,000,000 MAIZE " " 5,600,000 FROZEN MEAT " " 9,300,000 —————- Making a total of L27,900,000 —————-
Indeed, we buy from Argentina nearly 25 per cent. of our total food purchased abroad, and she supplies nearly 29 per cent. of our corn and grain requirements. These figures again clearly demonstrate that we have a vital interest in the well-being of our friends across the sea.
In every direction Argentina has progressed, and judging from the past we may look with confidence to the future; the total area of the Republic is 776,064,000 acres, and certainly it is within the bounds of reasonable forecast to consider that 100,000,000 acres of this land will be, when opened up by railways, and other facilities, available for corn-growing. To-day only one-fifth of this available area is being cultivated, and another 43,000,000 acres are being utilised for feeding purposes; thus, only 63,000,000 out of 776,000,000 acres are being occupied. The chief reason why more is not utilised is because there is not sufficient labour available.
Argentina has 5 inhabitants per square mile. Russia " 18 " " Canada, Newfoundland, etc. " 1-1/2 " " Australia " 1-1/3 " " U. Kingdom " 364 " " Belgium " 625 " " Germany " 290 " "
Not only is there an enormous tract of land lying dormant, but the productive power of land now under cultivation may be vastly increased if farmers will devote their attention to improving the conditions of cultivation. 11.3 bushels of wheat per acre is not high-class farming, yet this is the average production for Argentina. Manitoba in 1908 produced 13-1/2 bushels per acre, Saskatchewan, 17 bushels. In the fourteenth century England only produced 10 bushels per acre, but we have improved this yield to 30 bushels, while Roumania has increased her yield from 15 bushels per acre in 1890, to 23 bushels in 1908. France has increased her yield from 17 bushels in 1884, to 20 bushels in 1908. Germany has increased her yield per acre from 20 bushels in 1899, to 30 bushels in 1908. So that we may not only look forward to a greater area being placed under cultivation, but we may reasonably expect heavier crops, if land proprietors will bring science to bear on their work of development. Indeed, with land rising in price, with an increasing influx of immigrants, and with more intelligent cultivation of the soil, the land must of necessity give a far larger yield than it has done heretofore.
The following tables, taken from the Board of Trade returns, show from whence England draws some of her supplies. They also show how prominently Argentina figures as a food producer. The first table includes corn and meat; the second gives corn alone, and the third meat alone:—
FOOD IMPORTED INTO AND RETAINED BY THE UNITED KINGDOM IN 1908.
CORN (including wheat, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, peas, beans, maize, wheatmeal, flour, oatmeal, and offals) L71,103,487
MEAT, fresh and frozen (including animals for food) 48,704,613
L Per Cent. Argentina supplied 29,569,773 or 24.68 U.S.A. supplied 38,229,135 or 31.90 Russia supplied 7,394,607 or 6.18 Canada supplied 11,907,203 or 9.94 Australia (including Tasmania) supplied 4,520,244 or 3.77 Other Colonies and Foreign Countries supplied 28,187,138 or 23.53
L119,808,100 or 100.00
* * * * *
CORN IMPORTED INTO AND RETAINED BY THE UNITED KINGDOM IN 1908.
Argentina. U.S.A. Russia. Canada. Australia (including Tasmania).
L L L L L Wheat ... ... 13,096,812 10,779,221 2,286,180 6,335,329 2,402,988 Barley ... ... 22,943 733,446 2,622,005 205,697 Oats ... ... 1,463,368 1,144,387 6,441 Rye ... ... 129,691 93,066 49,009 Buckwheat ... ... 6,677 Peas ... ... 38,545 42,279 105,495 2,345 Beans (not fresh, other than Haricot Beans) ... ... 15,094 Maize ... ... 5,603,463 2,023,576 1,107,858 44,822 Wheatmeal and Flour ... 50,597 5,407,119 80 809,479 119,440 Oatmeal and Rolled Oats ... 183,334 207,516 Farinaceous sub- stances (except Starch, Farina, Dextrine, and Potato Flour) 99,112 59,302 Bran and Pollard 11,932 Sharps and Middlings 35,113 Maize Meal 129,543 + -+ + -+ -+ - L 20,284,228 19,523,587 7,317,626 7,823,090 2,524,773 + + -+ -+ - Percentage 28.53% 27.46% 10.29% 11.00% 3.56% + + -+ -+ -
* * * * *
Other Colonies and Foreign Total. Countries.
L L 13,630,183[C] 71,103,487
- - 13,630,183 71,103,487 - - 19.16% = 100% - -
* * * * *
MEAT, including animals for food, and fresh, chilled, frozen and tinned, imported into and retained by the United Kingdom in 1908:
L Per Cent.
Argentina supplied 9,285,545 or 19.07 U.S.A. " 18,705,548 " 38.41 Russia " 76,981 " 0.16 Canada " 4,084,113 " 8.38 Australia (including Tasmania) supplied 1,995,471 " 4.10 Other Colonies and Foreign Countries supplied[D] 14,556,955 " 29.88
48,704,613 " 100.00
The lesson shown here is one worthy of attention. We see that Argentina supplies England with one-fourth of her imported food, and U.S.A. supplies nearly one-third. Therefore it behoves both England and Argentina to see that America does not so manipulate things that she acquires the control over our meat and food supplies.
Argentine authorities should not only exercise the law sanctioned February 4th, 1907, concerning the inspection of factories, but they should enforce greater care in seeing that all Argentine saladeros and packing-houses are manipulated with intense care, and cleanliness should be insisted upon; it would be a bad day for Argentina should ever such an outcry be raised against her saladeros as that which a few years ago was directed against the North American packing houses and for a time ruined the canning industry of the United States, and yet we find American methods being introduced into Argentina without let or hindrance. If our soldiers and sailors are to be fed upon canned meats, let those who are responsible for purchasing the food, at least see that the food is prepared under healthy and sanitary conditions.
The corn-growing industry of the Argentine Republic is an intensely interesting subject. Before railways and steamships brought the foreign producer into close competition with our own farmers, Argentina did not produce enough grain to supply her home consumption, and cattle were bred only for their hides, tallow and bones. In the course of time, when steamers superseded sailing-ships and the world's carrying capacity thus became enormously increased, Argentina saw her opportunity of becoming a keen competitor in the food market. Corn-growing became a highly remunerative business, although much still remains to be learned concerning the handling of wheat. Both in the States and Canada grain is handled in a cheaper and more expeditious manner than in Argentina. An enormous amount of grain is dealt with in the Wheat Exchange of Winnipeg, but a further big impetus will be given to this industry when the wheat-fields of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are connected with a deep-sea port on Hudson Bay; this will be an accomplished fact in 1915, and as this route means a thousand miles less haulage by land, and eight hundred less by sea to the chief European ports than by any existing route, it is bound to become the popular one; the chief factor, however, in making it a useful wheat outlet is the established fact that Hudson Bay, although many miles north of Lake Superior, remains free from ice for a period of one month after Lake Superior is tightly frozen up.
Argentina may look forward to keen competition with Canada and Siberia for many years to come; on the other hand, the U.S.A. will steadily show a smaller quantity of wheat available for exportation, and the following table throws some light upon the wheat position:—
Argentina and Uruguay have increased the area of their wheat-growing land brought under the plough in the last ten years by 124 per cent. Canada in the last ten years by 120 per cent. Russia in the last ten years by 27 per cent. United States in the last ten years by 14 per cent.
No country in the world has shown such wonderful capabilities for growing linseed as the Argentine, and her average production for the following five-year periods show this expansion:—
Years. Production in Tons. 1894-1898 193,000 1899-1903 382,000 1904-1908 839,000
In ten years she increased her production by 335 per cent. In the same period India increased her production by 3.8 per cent., and North America by 105 per cent., whilst Russia was unable to keep up her supply.
The world's total linseed production for 1908 was made up as follows:—
Argentina produced 1,101,000 tons. North America produced 694,000 tons. Russia produced 470,000 tons. India produced 360,000 tons.
Here again we find Argentina leading. Moreover, she exported nearly the whole of her production, whilst North America, Russia, and India exported less than half a million tons between them.
It is more than probable that by 1920 Argentina will be able to export, as the result of agricultural work, more than L100,000,000 worth of produce per annum. It is interesting to note that, as the present figures reveal, allowing for a population of 6,500,000 and an agricultural produce export of L48,335,432, each individual in Argentina has sent abroad, after producing enough from the land to keep himself, goods to the value of nearly L8.
The diagram facing this page shows what has been accomplished by Argentina in the last ten years.
In actual money value the exportation of wheat, linseed, oats, maize, other grain, flour, bran, and middlings is, in round figures, as follows:—
1900 L15,485,000 1901 14,319,000 1902 13,634,000 1903 21,050,000 1904 30,065,000 1905 34,047,000 1906 31,530,000 1907 32,818,000 1908 48,335,000 1909 46,100,000
The value derived from the cattle industry and its allied produce is of great importance to the Argentine Republic. The exports from this industry may be divided into four heads, namely:—
MANUFACTURED OR PARTLY MANUFACTURED MATERIAL AND BY-PRODUCTS.
Since the closing of English ports in 1901 to the importation of live cattle from Argentina, the trade in the export of live stock has fallen off considerably; the total value did not in 1908 amount to more than L568,966; Belgium took 65,224 sheep, Chili took 45,114 cattle and 14,394 sheep, Bolivia took 3,383 head of cattle and 10,676 sheep, and 16,000 asses and mules, while horses were imported into England, Africa, Portugal, Brazil, Uruguay, Chili, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
Exports of raw products, which include frozen and chilled beef and mutton, hides, sheepskins, wool, and such things as horsehair, tallow, jerked beef, etc., represented a value of L19,549,231 in 1908.
Manufactured or partly manufactured material, including prepared tallow, meat extracts, meat, butter, cheese, lard, dressed leather, etc., represented L2,454,760, whilst the by-products, including bones, dried blood, guano, waste fats, etc., were valued at L430,734. Thus, Argentina's total export from the cattle industry (after supplying her own needs) was over L23,000,000.
Argentina's live stock on hand when the last census was taken in May, 1908, was as follows:—
Cattle ... ... ... 29,116,625 Sheep ... ... ... 67,211,758 Horses ... ... ... 7,531,376 Mules, swine, goats, and asses 6,098,802
representing in value L129,369,628.
The favourite breed of cattle is the Shorthorn, and they comprise 84 per cent, of the classified breeding cows; the Herefords only figure out as 6 per cent., but, undoubtedly, a more careful and complete classification will lead to modifications in these figures, for at the present time no less than five and a-half million cows are returned as Criollo cattle, in other words, unimproved stock.
Not until the year 1885, when it became possible to send frozen meat to Europe, did estancieros pay serious attention to growing cattle for meat production, and now, with an ever-increasing quantity of land being placed under alfalfa, the Argentine Republic is fast becoming the leading factor in the production of meat to satisfy the world's consumption.
Cattle on the outside fringe of occupied lands are still very coarse and rough, with a distinct strain of the Hereford about them; they are, however, a useful herd and most suitable for the districts they occupy, where they often have to undergo the hardships of shortage of pasture owing to drought, and little or no water, indeed, it is a marvel how these animals exist at times; and assuredly no refined breed of cattle could live where the Criollos not only manage to thrive, but generally to return a satisfactory result to their owners. The cattle on ranches which are nearer to the seaports, manufacturing centres, or railway stations show distinct improvements. Greater care is bestowed upon them, and the main consideration is never lost sight of—it is the ambition of every estanciero to have his cattle graded up so that they are looked upon as "freezers," which means that they are good enough to be purchased by one or other of the refrigerating companies, who take nothing but the best.
In 1888 cattle running the northern camps (which then represented the extreme outlying posts) were only valued at $6 per head.
In 1890 the value had risen to $10 per head. " 1900 " " " 15 " " 1908 " " " 28 " " 1910 " " " 40 "
The question of stock raising and the object to be obtained must rest with the owners: they must decide whether the land is to be utilised for fattening cattle or for breeding the high-class animals for which there is an ever-ready market. To show the enormous value of animals and the high standard to which agricultural lands can be brought, mention must be made of two estancias near Buenos Aires, viz., those belonging to Messrs. Cobo and Messrs. Bell, where splendid stock is always to be found. To give some idea of the high price paid for first-class pedigree animals, it may be mentioned that L3,800 was paid for a prize Durham bull which was sold to Argentina!
At the cattle show at Buenos Aires held in July, 1910, Herefords for killing realized from L850 to L1,000 per animal! These latter high prices were, however, evidently paid by the agents of Cold Storage Companies for advertising purposes. One representative explained that the freezing Companies desired to encourage breeders, and that his Company paid the high prices mentioned above so as to let the breeders know that they would always be paid high prices for first-class cattle.
When we consider the really important position which Argentina takes as a food producer, it appears incredible that the English nation (business men and the general public alike) is so extremely ignorant, as a rule, of prevailing conditions. I do not refer to those who have invested their money in the many channels known to the River Plate circle. But men holding high official positions speak of our commercial interests in Argentina as "something between a hundred and a hundred and fifty millions," and then in a whispered side-speech indicate the dangers of revolution.
Often it is suggested that the chances of death from small-pox, yellow fever, and even from murder are a serious drawback to what might otherwise be a country possible to live in. It makes one very indignant to hear these statements from the lips of those who probably have never left their own country. Let me assure you they may be swept aside, and were it not for their frequent reiteration it would be unnecessary to say that there is not one grain of truth in these suggestions as applied to the state of things to-day.
Nearly one-fifth of the population of Argentina is centred in and around Buenos Aires. It is a city of 1,200,000 inhabitants, many of whom are millionaires; but at the same time there exists much poverty within its precincts—poverty caused in no small degree by the viciousness of the rich, but to a far greater extent by the rooted objection of certain classes to go out to the camps where, during the harvest time at least, wages are high and labour is anxiously awaited.
When we compare the health of this city of Buenos Aires with that of other large cities, we can see what has been done in the way of improvements in the last few years. A glance at the following tables will give some idea of what has been accomplished. The natural increase of the population of Buenos Aires between 1898 and 1907 was 19.1 per 1,000, and no other city equals this.
The increase in London was 8.8 per 1,000. " Berlin " 8.5 " " New York " 5.7 " " St. Petersburg " 4.6 "
The birth-rate of Buenos Aires for 1908 was 34.3 per 1,000. " " London " 25.7 " " Berlin " 23.3 " " New York " 28.5 " " St. Petersburg " 27.5
Both these tables are, however, probably affected by the great number of immigrants finding their way to Argentina, many of whom remain in Buenos Aires.
The health of the City may be well gauged by the death-rate for the year 1907.
Buenos Aires stands well with 15.2 per 1,000 inhabitants. London has a death-rate of 15.1 " " Berlin " " 14.8 " " New York " " 18.6 " " St. Petersburg " 25.7 " "
(Undoubtedly the high rate shown by the last-named city is greatly due to the foul condition of the Neva.)
To appreciate thoroughly the position which Buenos Aires now holds, and the strides which have been made in regard to the sanitation of the City, we have but to look at the past. Between the years 1889 and 1898 the death-rate per thousand was as high as 22.9 per 1,000; from 1899 to 1908 it was only 16.6, and now the record stands at 15.2 per 1,000.
The authorities are justly proud of what has been done, and will not diminish their efforts so long as there is work to do and problems to solve.
I should like to state once more the fact that the United Kingdom depends upon Argentina for nearly one-fourth of her food supply purchased abroad. I want to impress upon your mind the seriousness of the position, for this proportion of one-fourth will be largely increased in the near future, for reasons already stated.
The question has often been asked, "Is it safe to buy land in Argentina?" But the drift of this query too often is merely self-interest; in other words, it really means "Can I successfully speculate in land?" Clearly the matter is solely a personal one, no other consideration is thought of, so one is tempted to give an evasive answer. Should the questioner, however, be a young fellow, with God's gift of health and plenty of truth and grit in him, who wants not only to acquire the land, but to work it, then, indeed, there is but one answer, and that is in the affirmative—let him go, and let him ever remember that he is an Englishman and that England is judged by the conduct of her sons: but do not let him make the great mistake a newcomer so often falls into, which is, that because he is an Englishman all other nationalities must be inferior, and that by some sort of divine right he has been created lord of all. Let him realise that those whom he meets in Argentina are as noble and pure as those he left at home. Argentina offers to-day a splendid opening for the best of England's sons, but she does not want the loafer nor the ne'er-do-well. Can it be wondered at that England's prestige is seriously injured when so many of the "wasters," and worse, are sent from the country? It is but natural that from these, who go to foreign countries, England is judged. To my mind we should send abroad men who are bound to succeed, men who never forget that from their behaviour the Mother Country will be appraised. Argentina will embrace and reward them, but she will spurn and despise the dissolute and drunken.
The advice I would give to all those thinking of trying Argentina as a field for agricultural work is to remember that to be successful one must begin at the bottom, the harder the school the better will be the result: you cannot detect and correct the faults which militate against success unless you have been through the mill. Not long ago I sent a boy out to Argentina and painted the first two years of learning in the new country in rather lurid colours. I explained and dwelt on the hardships—indeed, I described it as "a dog's life." Within a year, the lad wrote home to his parents and mentioned all that I had told him, but finished up by saying, "There's plenty of 'life' about it, but not much 'dog.'" The truth is that the boy had accepted things as they came along and had adapted himself to his surroundings, and, I predict, he will never regret having left his home, where opportunities were cramped by small surroundings, for the wider field of Argentina.
A great many Englishmen resident in Argentina, whose sons are looking forward to finding their life's work in that country, send their boys home to England to be educated. Far be it from me to deprecate the training acquired by English public school life, but it might well be worth while to consider the other phase. The boy who has had his schooling in Argentina and goes through his training and passes into one of their Universities will have to his credit something which cannot be bought by money or influence by boys straight out from home. He will have been a fellow student, and worked shoulder to shoulder with men who will in due time occupy positions of power and influence, and it is just as well to weigh out these things before deciding where to educate your boy. A boy born in Argentina, whatever the nationality of his parents may be, is by Argentine law an Argentine subject, and should be brought up to appreciate that he is liable to be called upon to go through a military course: the Argentine boy, who has had just as gentle an upbringing as the English boy, is compelled to serve his time in the army if called upon, and generally the discipline engendered by this training has not only been good for him, but is a distinctly valuable asset to the country, and the English boy, as well as a boy of any other parentage born in the country, will be obliged to go through this military training if required.
I venture to think that were England to adopt compulsory military service in some shape or form, we should hear a great deal less of the unemployed and "don't-want-work" demonstrations.
To attempt to give a picture of Argentine life is impossible in the short time at my disposal. Imagine to yourself, if you can, a country of 1,212,600 square miles whose borders extend from well within the Tropics to away down south to the everlasting snows, embracing all kinds of lands, from the very richest of soils to ice-capped and rocky peaks, and you must admit that to attempt to describe the various conditions of life therein is wellnigh impossible. Life is much what the surrounding conditions make it—on the extreme edge of cultivation it is distinctly rough, on the inner camps refinement steps in, and in the cities you will find just what society you wish. Amongst the cosmopolitan population of Buenos Aires there are many men and women of the highest culture and education.
There are many Argentines, who stand out prominently from the throng of busy pleasure-seekers, who are devoting their lives to improving the surroundings of those less fortunate fellow-creatures who have fallen upon the thorny path, and whose portion is often the cup of bitterness. Indeed, I have ever found the Argentine desirous of helping those who seek advice and assistance; but he spurns the foreigner who degrades himself and his country by acts of folly which would not be permitted in his native land.
Englishmen often fall into the great error of keeping themselves to themselves. Possibly this trait is engendered from birth and training by our insular position, but it is a great pity to carry it too far, for the Argentine people do appreciate the thoroughness of our countrymen, and are ready to welcome the right sort. We have taught the Argentines many of our national sports and games, and they have entered into them with such thoroughness that the teachers have often had to admit that the pupil has proved better than the master.
Travelling has become an integral part of the education of the Argentine family to-day, and it is quite general to find young children speaking fluently four or five languages.
I could wish that those who have Argentine friends would insist upon their seeing, when in this country, some of the Englishman's home surroundings, for hotel life, theatres, dinners, and music-halls are all very well in their way, but to see the real inwardness of English life you must follow the Englishman to his country home. My experience is that the Argentine will always refuse an invitation to your home at first, because of the trouble which he believes you will be put to, but don't take "no" for an answer; simply make him come, and he will thank you afterwards for his experience of English home life.
Just a word or two, for fear I have left an impression that Argentina is the El Dorado which lies beyond the seas. There are such things as locusts, floods, droughts, and frosts in that country.
The first of these—locusts—are indeed a plague which to-day it seems almost impossible to annihilate, for I have little faith in man's attempts effectually to stop or decrease this pestilence; on the other hand, Nature always seems to be on the alert to prevent an overthrow of the balance of things. Those who have spent their lives in the River Plate district have seen this appalling plague crushed by means which Nature, in her own good time, has thought fit to use.
With regard to floods and droughts, these can, at least, be modified by men, and means are now being adopted to conserve the floods and render their waters available in time of drought.
From frosts we seem powerless to defend ourselves, and it is only those whose work is in close touch with the growing and handling of crops who can fully appreciate the damage done by late frosts.
No country is free from drawbacks of some sort or another, and these troubles which I have just mentioned will not prevent the forward march of progress in Argentina.
[A] These figures are approximate
[B] The dollar referred to throughout this paper is the Argentine paper dollar, which since 1899 has had a fixed value, and is worth approximately 1s. 9d. Previous to that date its value fluctuated considerably.
[C] A list of the other Colonies and Foreign Countries which largely contributed to this total will be found on the following page.
[D] The other colonies and foreign countries which largely contributed to the totals mentioned are as follows:—
DENMARK—Barley L22,708 Meat 5,988,573
ROUMANIA—Corn, etc. L2,564,538 Meat nil.
TURKEY (including CRETE)—Corn, etc L1,383,971 Meat nil.
TURKEY, ASIATIC—Corn, etc. L1,344,322 Meat nil.
CHILI—Corn, etc L1,099,660 Meat 10,682
BRITISH INDIA—Corn, etc L2,226,668 Meat nil.
NEW ZEALAND—Corn, etc L30,585 Meat 4,168,649
HISTORY OF THE SANTA FE LAND COMPANY, LIMITED.
In the years 1881 and 1882, Messrs. C. de Murrieta & Co. acquired a block of land from the Government of the Province of Santa Fe, and in December, 1882, sold one undivided half-share thereof to Messrs. Kohn, Reinach & Co. Messrs. Murrieta & Co. and Messrs. Kohn, Reinach & Co., having decided to develop the said lands, formed the Santa Fe Land Company, and the prospectus appeared in July, 1883.
The area sold to the new Company was said to comprise about 650 Spanish leagues, or 4,336,150 English acres, and the price to be paid to the vendors was L1,050 per league.
In order to provide a port of shipment on the Rio Parana the Company bought a further lot of 323 acres in the Colony of Romang.
In addition to the original block of land, the Company has since bought the following areas:—
The estancia of La Barrancosa, 10,801 hectareas, say 26,678
The estancia of Santa Catalina, 4,049 hectareas, say 10,002
A strip of land at Guaycuru on the eastern boundary of the Company's forest lands, 1,636 hectareas, say 4,041
A piece of land at Venado Tuerto, 37 hectareas, say 91
A piece of land at Arrufo, 100 hectareas, say 247
A piece of land at Tostado, 50 hectareas, say 123
Since the beginning of the Company the total area of land sold has amounted to 709,549 acres (up to 30th June, 1910). It is calculated that the land comprised in the Bazan claim, to which reference is made later on, measures 582,914 acres. Upon this supposition the Company now owns 3,044,100 acres.
The original price paid for the Company's lands worked out at about 3s. an acre.
The original capital of the Company was L875,000, of which over L675,566 was paid to the vendors, leaving a balance of L199,434 to meet the preliminary expenses and the initial cost of opening up the new properties. After some years it was found necessary to write off a portion of the capital, and accordingly, in 1897, the Company's lands were re-valued at approximately 2s. 9d. an acre.
The present Directors of the Company are:—
Mr. CAMPBELL P. OGILVIE (Chairman). Mr. IVOR BEVAN. Mr. GORDON H. BROWN. LORD HAWKE. Mr. LOUIS H. KIEK. Mr. T.E. PRESTON. Capt. The Hon. F.C. STANLEY.
The London Office is at 779, Salisbury House, Finsbury Circus, London, E.C., and the Secretary of the Company is Mr. David Simpson. The Head Office in the Argentine is at 761, Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires, and the following are the principal officers of the Company in Argentina:—
Mr. HUGH M. RATTRAY (General Manager). Mr. W.B. WHIGHAM (Manager of the Cattle and Lands Department at Sun Cristobal). Mr. R.N. LAND (Manager at Santa Catalina). Mr. T. SCOTT ROBSON (Manager at La Barrancosa). Mr. G.L.C. GITTINS (Acting Manager of the Woods Department).
The original shares of the Company were L10 each. It was decided in 1897 to reduce them to L7 fully paid, which placed the capital at L612,500. Shortly afterwards each L7 share was converted into seven shares of L1 each.
In 1906 the shareholders authorised the creation of L200,000 of fresh capital, which was issued to them in two blocks of L154,000 in 1906 and L46,000 in 1907.
Fresh capital was authorised in 1908, viz., L187,500, of which L161,608 was issued in 1909, and further lots have since been issued, bringing the total amount of authorised capital to L1,000,000, and of issued capital at 30th June, 1910, to L982,347.
An issue of L50,000 Six per Cent. Debentures was made in January, 1904; and the whole amount was redeemed on the 1st July, 1909.
Part of the area sold to the Company consisted of a block of approximately 88 Spanish leagues, or 530,000 English acres, which became the subject of negotiations and lawsuits between this Company, the Provincial Government of Santa Fe, and other parties, lasting for more than twenty-five years. The area in question lay to the West of the Rio Salado, and, at the time when this Company was formed, was supposed to be included in the Province of Santa Fe. Soon afterwards the Province of Santiago del Estero put forward a claim to the lands on the ground that the boundaries of that Province extended eastwards to the Rio Salado, and it therefore disputed the right of the Province of Santa Fe to sell the lands to Messrs. Murrieta & Co. in 1882.
By an Agreement with the Government of the Province of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Land Company took proceedings in the Supreme Courts of the Province to establish its rights to the land in dispute on the understanding that if the Company failed to establish its claim, the Government of the Province of Santa Fe would indemnify it for its loss. In the result the Company was evicted from the lands, and entered into negotiations with the Government of the Province of Santa Fe for indemnification. These negotiations went on for some years without coming to any practical conclusion, and at last the Company commenced a lawsuit against the Province and won it. After further delays and negotiations the Government agreed to issue bonds in respect of the Company's claim, and, in July, 1909, the Company agreed to accept $3,212,000 paper Bonds of the Province, carrying interest at 3-1/2 per cent., with an amortisation of 1/2 per cent., the coupons being available for payment of land tax. The Government further undertook to ratify the original titles of the Company, and to make a survey at the joint expense of both parties, for the purpose of ascertaining the exact area comprised in the original transfer. Any lands found to be in excess were to be paid for by the Company to the Government at the rate of $13.50, paper, per hectarea (about 8s. an acre). The price of such excess lands was to be recouped by the Government from the Bonds issued to the Company, and the Government retained $712,000 Bonds for this purpose, pending the result of the survey.
At the time of the formation of the Company, the nearest railway was that belonging to the Central Argentine Railway, and the nearest railway station was Rosario, but some years later, the lines now belonging to the French Railway Company of the Province of Santa Fe were laid between Santa Fe and San Cristobal. Subsequently the Central Norte Railway, which stretches northwards from San Cristobal to Tucuman, was built by the National Government, and in 1907, the National Government built a line from Santa Fe to San Cristobal via San Justo.
The Company have built a railway from a point north of Vera running into their forests, and extend it from time to time as the development of the wood industry demands. They further own a line from Margarita to La Gallareta, where the extract factory of the Compania Tanin de Santa Fe is situated. The Company propose to build a railway from San Cristobal to penetrate to their northern properties, and have applied to the Argentine National Government for a railway concession in connection therewith.
After various changes of centre the administration offices of the Company were, in the year 1902, divided between San Cristobal for the cattle and lands department, and Vera for the woods department, but, in 1906, the woods department was placed under the supervision of the General Manager of the Company, who lived at San Cristobal, and, in 1908, the central offices were moved from San Cristobal to Buenos Aires. Through the latter office all the work of the Company in Argentina passes on to the London office, the managers at San Cristobal, Vera, Santa Catalina, and La Barrancosa, having to concern themselves only with the technical and administrative work carried on under them respectively.
The Company's business has been mainly divided into three branches, viz.: (1) land sales and rentals; (2) cattle industry, and (3) timber trade.
The first two branches are conducted from San Cristobal, situated at the S.W. corner of the Company's original lands, and for many years the site of the central offices of the Company in Argentina, whilst the timber trade is conducted from Vera.
SAN CRISTOBAL DEPARTMENT.
A township was started at San Cristobal in 1884, and now numbers 4,500 persons.
The Administration House and other buildings for the use of the General Manager and Staff of the Cattle and Lands Department were erected about three miles from the town, and the whole now forms a large and handsome establishment, equipped with the most modern requisites for carrying on the work of the estancia.
The cattle lands have been divided up into sections, which are managed by officials of the Company, under the control of the administration at San Cristobal. The office there and the offices on the various sections have recently been connected up by telephone. These sections are Polvareda, Michelot, Los Moyes, and Lucero (which lie to the North and North-East of San Cristobal), and Las Chunas, which forms the North-Western corner of the Company's lands.
SANTA CATALINA AND LA BARRANCOSA.
In January, 1897, the Company rented the estancia of Santa Catalina, which is situated about five miles from Los Cardos on the Central Argentine Railway and about 150 miles South of San Cristobal. Here the stock which was brought down from San Cristobal was fattened before passing on to the markets. At the same time the Company continued the sowing of alfalfa which had been begun by the proprietor, and ultimately decided to buy the camp and use it as an establishment for breeding fine stock. The terms of the purchase were that the price should be paid by way of an annuity, payable during the joint lifetime of the owner and his wife. In 1909 this method of payment was compounded and satisfied in full by an allotment of shares of the Company.
The practice has been that the male calves born on this estancia should be sent North to the general herds kept at San Cristobal and the adjoining sections, and that the progeny of these animals should in turn be sold as fat cattle.
To facilitate this business the Company found it necessary to acquire a camp specially adapted for fattening purposes in the Southern part of the Province, so that they might be brought into closer touch with the markets of Rosario and Buenos Aires. They accordingly bought the estancia La Barrancosa in 1906, and have been constantly increasing the area there under alfalfa, equipping it with a full complement of wells and fencing. This estancia lies half way between the towns of San Isabel and Venado Tuerto, from the latter of which it is distant about sixteen miles. But, during the year 1909, a new broad-gauge railway line was opened, leading from Rosario to Bahia Blanca. It passes right through the estancia, and by means of a station just outside the boundary the Company have fresh means of despatching their animals to Rosario.
The headquarters of the Woods Department is situated about eight miles N.W. of the town of Vera, which stands at kilometre 250 north of the City of Santa Fe on the line of the French Railway Company leading from Santa Fe to Resistencia. Sawmills and offices were built, which involved the presence of a considerable number of work-people, for whom houses had to be provided. Consequently, a small village has grown up at the place.
A branch railway was begun in 1905, at a point 13 kilometres north of Vera town, on the French Railway, to penetrate westwards into the Company's forests, and has been extended to a point called Olmos, lying 30 miles away. Along the line two or three hamlets have sprung up, where people connected with the wood industry reside, as well as the Company's officials who control the timber in the neighbourhood.
In 1904 the Company entered into an agreement with Messrs. Albert and Charles Harteneck, Frederick and Charles Portalis, and Hermann Renner, to bring out a Company to work a factory for the manufacture of tannin extract from the wood of the Quebracho Colorado tree, and this factory was ultimately built within the Company's properties at a place called La Gallareta, which is situated 17 kilometres north-west of the Station of Margarita on the French Railway line. The Santa Fe Land Company have also built a branch line from Margarita to this tannin factory.
THE FOLLOWING TABLE SHOWS THE FINANCIAL POSITION OF THE COMPANY FROM 1898 TO THE PRESENT TIME.
Year Share Capital. Deben- Profit. Loss. Placed Balance Dividend ending. tures to Forward. (percent.) Autho- Issued 6 per cent. Reserve. rised. and fully paid. L L L L L L L 30th June, " 1898 612,500 612,500 ... 420 ... ... Cr. 420 ... " 1899 612,500 612,500 ... ... 1,650 ... Dr. 1,230 ... " 1900 612,500 612,500 ... 11,757 ... ... Cr. 2,870 1-1/4 " 1901 612,500 612,500 ... 9,854 ... 2,000 " 3,068 1-1/4 " 1902 612,500 612,500 ... 20,746 ... 10,000 " 6,158 1-1/4 " 1903 612,500 612,500 ... 23,988 ... 10,000 " 7,896 2 " 1904 612,500 612,500 50,000 28,332 ... 6,000 " 8,790 3-1/2 " 1905 612,500 612,500 50,000 36,483 ... 6,000 " 8,648 5 " 1906 812,500 612,500 50,000 48,183 ... 6,000 " 11,018 6-1/2 " 1907 812,500 766,500 50,000 82,700 ... 12,000 " 20,398 8 " 1908 1,000,000 812,500 50,000 91,463 ... 86,628[E] " 20,611 10 " 1909 1,000,000 812,500 50,000 115,375 ... 20,000 " 22,549 10 and Bonus of 1-1/2
[E] Including L76,623 from Share Premiums.
THE VALUE OF LAND IN ARGENTINA.
When one goes to a foreign country, and more especially when he intends to settle there with the idea of making a fortune, he naturally turns his attention to the value of the land, as from this he draws his views of the prosperity of the country. Now, twenty-five years ago the Argentine had comparatively very few railways; consequently, the lands at any long distance from Buenos Aires (the capital) were at a very low value. The province of Buenos Aires, the largest in the country, has always been the most populated, and its lands have always commanded the highest prices, and these have risen tremendously, but not so much of late years in proportion as land in the northern provinces. During the years 1885, 1886, 1887, and 1888, there was a great boom in land. Foreigners were pouring in, bringing capital; great confidence was put by foreign capitalists in the country, several railways had run out new branches, new railways were built, new banks were opened, and a very large extent of land was opened up and cultivated, and put under wheat and linseed, harvests were good and money was flowing into the country. Then came a very bad year, 1889; the harvest was practically lost owing to the heavy and continuous rains which fell from December till July with hardly a clear day. This, together with a bad government and the revolution of 1890, created a great panic and a tremendous slump in all land, from which it took a long time to recover. Where people had bought camps and mortgaged them, which was the general thing to do in those days, the mortgagees foreclosed, and, when the camps were auctioned off, they did not fetch half what the properties had been bought for in the first instance, some four or five years previously. This, naturally, had a serious effect on the credit, soundness, and finances of the country, but really, the crisis was not felt until some three or four years after, and it was 1896 and 1897 which were very serious years for the country.
To give one an idea of the value of land in four or five of the principal provinces of the country, I must begin with the Queen Province, as it is called, viz., Buenos Aires. In 1885, property in the city centre was worth 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. a yard, whereas to-day it has been sold up to L200 sterling per yard, while suburban lots of 20 yards by 60 yards realised L5 and to-day are fetching L150, and camp lands have risen from L10,000, to L100,000 the square league. Of course this is within a radius of 30 to 50 leagues of the city; lands away to the south and west may yet be bought at L10,000, and, still further south towards Neuquen and the far Pampa, at L2,000 per square league. The province of Buenos Aires is not considered good for alfalfa growing, but has good natural grass camps.
The province of Santa Fe is a large province, extending from the northern boundary of the province of Buenos Aires to Santiago del Estero, and contains what is known as the Gran Chaco. The southern portion of this province is largely dedicated to the production of wheat, linseed, and maize, for which it is admirably adapted. There are also large estancias carrying vast herds of cattle, sheep, and horses, while the northern portion has vast forests of very fine and valuable timber.
The first part of this province to be developed was the country around Rosario, the large port on the River Parana, where ocean-going steamers call. This, together with good railway accommodation in all directions combined with excellent land in the district, facilitates the cultivation of cereals on a very large scale. Property in Rosario itself is very valuable, and from L30 to L50 a yard is a common figure. In the immediate district of Rosario land is rarely sold in large areas, but may be calculated at L20 an acre, whilst 40 leagues further north it is to-day worth L50,000 a league. I know of one estancia of one league which was bought in 1885 for L2,000, resold, after being sown down in alfalfa and divided into paddocks, without further improvements, at L12,000 (this was in 1903), and again sold in 1909, certainly with further improvements as regards watering arrangements and more paddocks, house, and sheds, etc., in fact, a fair model estancia in good working order, for L60,000. Land on the south-west of Rosario, and about 40 leagues distant, has in the twenty-five years risen from L2,000 a league to L40,000 a league. This is for virgin camp, and to-day in these districts the average price can be stated at from L30,000 to L40,000 per league, yet 300 miles further north land—good land—can be had at from L4,000 to L6,000 per league.
The next province, Cordoba, is one of the most hilly in the country, and has been one of the most developed during latter years. Some twenty years ago this was almost considered a desert, where one was told nothing would grow and cattle could not live. To-day it is one of the most prosperous; wheat and linseed are great products here, while alfalfa, when carefully treated, that is, not overstocked, lives for ever on account of the sandy soil, and water being so near the surface. These lands twenty years ago were valued at about L500 to L600 per league, while to-day it is difficult to acquire land under cultivation or alfalfa at less than L30,000 per league. In the Northern part of this province are very valuable stone quarries.
Another province that is advancing very fast is that of San Luis. Here, again, it has been found that alfalfa is at home, and thrives splendidly. This, again, is a very sandy soil, and consequently is much sought after, but this land has not yet touched the value of that in the provinces already mentioned; it will not stand so much cropping, and will not carry the same amount of stock, but still the average price for virgin camp is from L5,000 to L10,000 per league. In this province there is a very large extent of very poor land, covered with a small shrub, which is not worth more than L2,000 a league.
Mendoza is a more northerly province, and mostly dedicated to the grape and wine industry, while a lot of fruit is also exported from there. Wine is made in very large quantities, and a lot of very good quality. The value of land varies very much. The greater portion is worth at present very little. The great point is to get the water concessions for irrigating; without irrigation the land is useless. A good vineyard in its prime, with good irrigation rights, is worth as much as from L40 to L50 per acre, while the ordinary camp land is at about 7s. per acre.
REMARKS ON STORMS AND THE CLIMATE OF THE ARGENTINE.
The Argentine Republic, like all hot countries, is subject to very great hurricanes and storms. They occur most frequently in the spring and summer, when very sudden changes of temperature take place. The thermometer has often been known to drop 25 degrees within half an hour.
A great deal of damage is always caused, trees which have taken years of care and trouble are ruthlessly uprooted, roofs blown off, windmills blown down, haystacks turned over, and valuable animals struck by lightning. The terrible closeness and stillness which generally precede a "tormenta" are certain forerunners of bad weather and storms. A terrible hailstorm which took place some time ago will always be remembered by its spectators. The usual signs of it were evident; the atmosphere had become very close and it had been extremely hot for some hours before. Though only about 4 p.m., it got peculiarly dark and a strong gale began to blow, and distant sounds of thunder were heard. A sudden lull came, which meant that the storm was about to break; sheets of lightning of every description were followed by deafening peals of thunder, which made man and beast tremble. Then there came a downfall of huge hailstones; they were just like big lumps of jagged ice; some of them measured about six to eight inches round and weighed over half a pound. This storm did a fearful lot of harm; not a leaf was left on a single tree, and hundreds of birds lay dead all around. Though very violent, this hailstorm did not last more than ten minutes, in which time an incalculable amount of destruction took place.
In September, 1909, a very bad cyclone suddenly came on us. The sky turned black and blacker, and the clouds looked horribly wicked. Suddenly a terrific gale got up, which caused every window and door to rattle in a most alarming manner, though they had all been as well secured as possible. The dust seemed to filter in just the same, and in five minutes the house was an inch thick in it. We heard a loud bang and then another over our heads, and on looking out of a window we saw the roof of one of the outer buildings lying on the ground; part of it had been blown over our house and had carried away the chimney, a big iron one, on its way. We were told afterwards that the cook had had to use all her force against the kitchen window to keep it from bursting open, as, if the wind had got in, it would have carried away that roof as well. This hurricane lasted for about an hour and a-half; as soon as it had abated somewhat we went out to see the result. Everywhere reigned havoc and confusion, the whole place looked an old ruin, brick-bats, tiles, broken branches, loose sheets of corrugated iron lying all around; three roofs had been blown away, several windmills knocked down and carried 100 yards away, and lovely old trees had been completely uprooted.
The natives, frightened of remaining in their own quarters, had, in their terror, deserted them and taken refuge, with their wives and children, in the open camp, where they fondly imagined they were safer. Out in the camp the roofs of most of the "puestos," or huts, had been also carried away, leaving the occupants exposed to the cold rains and winds which followed.
A peculiar feature of this storm was that it was not at all general; at the neighbouring "estancias" it was not felt at all, and some of the "peons," who were riding in the camp at the time, said they could see this whirlwind coming a long way off at a tremendous rate and that it looked like a column of red smoke; they could not feel the effects of the wind either, although they were not more than half a mile away.
This storm was followed by very heavy rains which lasted for about ten days, during which our house was flooded, as the wind had lifted the tiles and the rain was driven in through every possible place.
Another time, when driving home from the town of Vernado Tuerto, we were caught in a very bad dust storm. Things became so black that we could not see where we were going, so we had to halt. The wind was so strong that the men had to get out of the carriage, which was a heavy covered-in waggonette, and hold the wheels down to prevent it from being overturned. We all looked like seaside niggers, as the dust and rain falling at once came down like mud on us all. One gets quite hardened to these severe storms. On one occasion a very rough wind began to blow, but, as it was a steady gale, no one took particular notice of it. It was after dinner, and everybody was busy playing cards. The wind made such a deafening noise that you could hardly hear yourself speak; presently some of the occupants of the house thought they would have a look outside to see if things were all right; when they were surprised to see an outer building, used for stores and machinery, roofless, and the roof nowhere to be seen; it was discovered afterwards on the top of their own house, and they had never heard it happen.
The climate in the Argentine is very variable; we have great extremes of heat and cold. It is healthy as a rule, except in the swampy districts or during a very wet season, when a great many residents suffer from rheumatism.
People talk about the sudden changes of English weather, but we are treated just the same; one day it will be brilliantly hot and fine, and another day cold and miserable.
One part of the country or another is generally suffering from drought, when in another part they are being flooded out.
In the winter there is much more sunshine than there is in England; in the early morning it is bitterly cold, at noon on a fine day it is blazing hot, and then, as soon as the sun goes in, it freezes hard.
In the summer, of course, the heat is very great, but, as it is generally dry, it is quite healthy.
SOME EXPERIENCES OF WORKING ON ESTANCIAS.
I came out with my brother on a tramp steamer from Penarth. We took thirty-one days. However, time passed fairly quickly, chipping off rust and painting the decks, after we got over our sickness.
Rain fell heavily as we landed at Buenos Aires, two typical gringos (greenhorns), not knowing a word of Spanish. I went to a first-class hotel, whose proprietor I had met in England. My first attempt to speak Spanish was in a tram. I asked the conductor to stop; getting out I said, "Mucha grasa" (much fat), instead of "muchas gracias" (many thanks)—then called the man a fool for laughing.
We stopped in Buenos Aires a week and our bill came into hundreds of dollars, which took a big slice off our small means.
We then went to an estancia (farm) in the Province of Cordoba. The estancia was fifty-one miles square, owned by an Argentine family. The manager was a North-American, well known in camp life.
The estancia consisted of three sections, one where I went, another where my brother was, and the other the headquarters.
I was under a young Scotchman. The camp was fifteen miles, with 3,000 cows, 2,000 steers, and 500 mares. There was my companion, one peon (man), a boy, and myself. My house was made of mud walls and floor, a zinc roof, with a little straw. It was cool in summer, but very cold in winter. There was one room for ourselves, where we slept and ate, one for the cook (when we had one), and a kitchen. Under my bed I had a snake's hole; a long black snake came out in the night, and, on hearing a sound, would go back. I did everything to kill it, but with no success. Also I had two kittens which slept in my bed. One night I felt something soft by my feet. I thought it was the kittens, but, putting my hand down, I found my feet covered with blood. I jumped out of bed, and found a young hare half eaten and my sheets covered with blood.
The first thing I had to do was to skin a cow, and it made me feel very uncomfortable to look at the horrid sight. The next day I was sent to fetch the fat from a dead cow. When I got there I could not see any fat and wondered what it was. I saw the intestines and carried them bodily on my new recado (native saddle). My horse got excited and I arrived dead beat. I told my companion I had the fat: then he burst out laughing and said I had got the intestines. Needless to say my recado was the worse for wear.
The food was different from what I was used to, and I felt ill for a time.
In the summer I was up at between three and four, having "mate-cocido" (cooked Paraguayan tea—the native drink) with a hard biscuit; at eleven, breakfast of puchero (big pieces of meat boiled in a pot), then maize with milk and a biscuit. Sometimes tea at four, but very seldom; supper consisted of an asado and mate at seven or eight o'clock.
I had charge of two valuable stallions—they had a stable of mud and straw.
At branding time the capataz (foreman) came up with his men for a week. Up before three o'clock, quite dark, we branded 6,000 calves, and I enjoyed it.
The Boss seldom came; when he did, his trap would be sure to run over a piece of wire, and then we heard of it; nothing missed him.
Then our cook began stealing provisions from the store box. We changed the locks three times, and each time she bought a key to the same. One night I asked her for some coffee. She said there was none. I could see she had some in a small bag, and I went to fetch it. She took up a knife and threatened me. I soon twisted the knife from her. Our food was bad, my companion was careless, and frightened of her. One day he had a row, and she got the sack, using strong language. We then did our own cooking for eight months: the first one home from camp had to begin cooking.
The meat we got was often green and bitter. All the time we had puchero and asado, and an occasional ostrich egg.
Ostriches swarmed everywhere, and it was good sport lassoing them. I found one nest with fifty eggs, laid by different birds. My cooking was rather a failure at first, the smoke was so thick we could not see each other. I was told to cook maize for dinner. I made a big fire, and cooked for three hours, and was then told I had the stallions' maize. Another time it was very dark; our candles, made of old clothes and grease, had run out. I had made some good soup, and put the pot near the table, then, walking by, put my foot in it: the hot grease made me hop, and took the skin off my foot. Our table was an old greasy box; we had no plates, nor forks, just a big knife. Sometimes, coming in very tired from a hard day, we had no strength to chop wood and make a fire; we just went to bed. Many days we only had an asado and mate. Mate I am very fond of—it is so refreshing and sustaining.
My brother was only eight miles away: his section was under alfalfa, and he had a comfortable house. One dark night, going home from his place, I followed a fence until I came to a cross fence. I was going slowly, when, all of a sudden, my horse stopped dead, and I shot over the fence, the bridle and halter came off, and away went my horse, leaving me to continue five miles on foot.
Bizcachas (like a big badger) were numerous. One day we dug a two-metre hole, and next day found eight live ones. They have teeth one and a-half inches long.
Our nearest village was eighteen miles away, where I met some English friends, and played tennis or had some other amusement. I used to start back at 2.30 a.m. to be in time for work. One night I had to cross a big field, without a path or fence for a guide. It was dark, and lightning hard. I made for a light, which I thought was the house. Going for some time, I came to a fence—I was lost. I unsaddled and lay down to sleep, the rain was pouring hard, when I heard a donkey braying, so I shouted, and was answered by a man in a puesto (out-station). The light I saw was a village twelve miles away.
My companion was very slack, and the patrons came up and sacked him.
Then I went to the estancia house for a month, breaking in colts for driving. I felt rather sad at leaving my rough work. It was hard work, but I never had better health.
My Boss then earned $15 per month, and his wife cooked for the men. Now he is one of the richest men in the country.
There was no opening there, so the Boss sent me to a New Zealander who had half a league of camp, all fine stock, good alfalfa and splendid water. He had a big house and I expected I would live well. My first work was to dig up locusts' eggs for a week under a hot sun, with the ground very hard. The Boss was a man of forty-two, very red-faced and extremely rich, but as mean as possible.
Our meals took about six to eight minutes, fast eating; he would watch every mouthful. At tea he would take a lot of milk and give me a little; he finished soon, while I burnt my throat. He allowed me a slice of biscuit for each meal. His cook only got $10 a month.
In the winter we were in bed by six to seven.
His clothes were a disgrace to any peon. He had native trousers that button at the foot, with top boots, no socks, his heel and big toe were sticking out, no vest, only a shirt and an old hat, where the grease of many years was visible.
He was a splendid worker—I have not seen a better one. We used to catch locusts in a big zinc box pulled by two horses; the locusts were put into sacks, and after being left standing for four days, were carted to the village, where he got 10 cents a kilo. The smell in carting these dead locusts was simply terrible. Then I helped pick ten square of maize, which at first took a little skin off my hands. At branding time we lassoed each calf to cut off the horns. I had to sit on their necks, and got smothered in the face with hot blood. The Boss was very proud because his monthly account only came to $12 for four of us: biscuits, sugar, tea, and other things. He sent his clothes once in three months to be washed. He had few friends, no one ever came to visit him, and every Sunday he shut himself in his room. He bought the place for $90,000 and sold it for over double. He was a thorough campman, but so mean. One cold winter 500 cows died of starvation; rather than sell them at a low price he let them starve. The last thing he said was, he was "going to New Zealand to marry an ugly lady, but she has plenty of money." His countrymen called him a disgrace to his country and the meanest in the Argentine.
Then a kind friend found me a place on a well-known estancia in the same province. The manager, the second-manager, and the book-keeper were all Irish, born in the country. I had a good horse, which I rode fifty miles to the estancia.
The second told me to have my food with the peons (men), which was rather disheartening. I tried to eat in the kitchen, but the French cook kicked me out, and for ten months I fed with the peons; they were very good fellows. The second and the book-keeper had meals together. The second-manager did no work: up at half-past eight, he went to the train, had a drink at the shop, then came back for dinner, slept until tea-time, then went to see the train pass again and have another drink, and came back at all hours. He had been there fourteen years and was only getting a hundred a month.
The chief work was loading cattle and sheep for the big freezing factories. The trucks were rotten. One night we finished at 11 p.m., after a hard day's work, three of us unloaded 300 quebracho posts in under three hours. I had a French gardener in my room who did nothing else but spit and talk politics.
The Boss took me to learn shearing. I had to shear, gather the wool, sort it and pack it up. Each man got five cents a sheep, but it was hard work, all done by hand.
Then I cut alfalfa for a fortnight—a nice easy job.
A Catholic priest came to stay for eight days—Mass every day at 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., sometimes three a day. No work at all. Everyone had to go—the book-keeper did not, so he got the sack. I, as a Protestant, went to the sermons, which were very good. It was wonderful; these rough campmen went away quite tamed for a time. The last night the Boss got married at half-past twelve at night to a native lady. Another time, while we were at Mass, someone came to say the gardener was dying—we raced down, the priest in front ready to hear his confession, but when we got there the gardener was calmly smoking his pipe, greatly surprised.
An inspector of locusts stopped all the summer. He did nothing but eat, sleep, and drink whisky. We had locust-killing machines of every description, but we did not kill ten kilos.
The days I enjoyed were when we started out early to part some animals in a herd of over a thousand. At eleven we would have an asado and mate, and give our horses a drink, then finish parting, and get home at half-past seven. The horses look wrecks, and no good, but they work all day—mostly galloping—and are splendid stayers.
The Boss's brother, a very nice man of fifty, married a servant of the Boss, a girl of eighteen.
Great excitement is caused by races. The Boss was keen, and the men talked of nothing else for days. Every Sunday there are races. Once I rode my horse bareback in three races of 200 metres, and won a bottle of beer, a packet of tobacco, and a knife.
Then I was put in charge of fine stock. I had ten Durham bulls, two thoroughbred stallions, one Pecheron, eight rams and twelve pigs. I had a boy under me. I also had to saddle up the Boss's and the Second's horses, and harness the traps. Sometimes I had to wait till eleven at night, very tired, to unsaddle the Second's horse, as he had been making love to the Stationmaster's sister.
The work was very interesting and hard, even on Sundays or feast days, watering, cleaning the animals, and curing any foals that were ill.
I then moved to another room near the stable, with a newly arrived Italian who knew no Spanish nor English, also an Irishman just arrived. They could not speak to each other. The Irishman slept on the floor every night, and poured kerosene all over him to keep insects away. One day he poisoned five pigs, giving them the dip-water to drink. He had few clothes. He would turn them inside out, and often had three pairs of trousers and two shirts on.
One day the Boss was out: the men were taming some wild colts in the corral. I took French leave and went. I got on five. None had had a saddle on before or even been handled. We lassoed them, pulled them down and put on the bridle. Then five men held a long rope and one put on the native saddle, with stirrups big enough to get your toes in. Then they tied a red handkerchief round my head. I mounted gently but quickly. Then the rope was taken off and away the colt went as fast as possible, with one man on each side to shove you either way, all the time bucking and plunging. I did not fall, but one stirrup broke. One laid down and would not move. It tried to bite everyone. When they go fast and buck at the same time it is very hard to stick on.
On the 25th of May, the great holiday in this country, I went to an estancia to see some friends. On my way back we had to cross a deep river. The coachman drove across, but one wheel went into a big hole and the jerk sent me out on my head, where the wheel passed over my hair, missing my head by inches. I was senseless. A crowd of women came and began weeping—they thought I was dead—then I was taken in a procession to the chemist, who sent me to a hospital, where I found my collar bone broken. I did nothing for three weeks.
This estancia is a splendid one for learners, because there is a little of everything. Once I had a month with the threshing machine, sleeping out with the mosquitoes, and getting meat nearly raw for food; but a lot of money can be made from the harvest.
Then, after a few weeks' holiday to England, we came back, and I went down south with my brother to sow alfalfa seed. We had a caravan on wheels, and learned how to plough and sow. We went to a camp race-meeting, where every estancia has its own tent, there is racing all day and dancing at night.